Please tell us a bit about yourself.
As a Metallurgy graduate of the University of Leeds and subsequently a chartered accountant, I stayed in the City Region and worked in the private sector for nearly four decades, which ended with my role as Senior Partner at PwC. This was, in theory, my retirement, which has actually proved to be just as busy as my working life!
I have been Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) since 2013 and during that time the LEP has been through a period of substantial change; culminating most recently in securing a devolution deal for the region, which is fantastic news. I also chair the NP11 which brings together the 11 Northern LEPs to work with the Northern Powerhouse Minister to support the Government’s vision for the Northern Powerhouse.
In 2015, I was extremely honoured with an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list for Services to Business and the Economy, and last year I was very proud to be appointed Deputy Lieutenant for West Yorkshire, which means I attend events representing the region and will be able to suggest nominations for official honours.
Tell us more about the LEP and how you work with businesses across the Leeds City Region.
The LEP supports economic growth and social transformation across the Region. We run the Growth Service to offer support to the 126,000 SMEs across the City Region and help businesses who wish to improve productivity, develop their employees and save money through more efficient use of energy, water, waste and more. We have a strong track record; having helped over 11,000 businesses since 2015 through the allocation of £43 million in funding to support both business growth and resilience.
In the past year, we have launched #welcome and #Grow, which provide funding to businesses in the digital and creative sectors. #welcome is focussed on attracting inward investment and the purpose of #Grow is to support existing businesses in the region. AND Digital opened an office in Halifax, next to the Piece Hall last year, and both Northcoders and dxw digital have also opened offices in Leeds through #welcome. More recently, True Vision Yorkshire and Powerhouse have become beneficiaries of #Grow, which means they’ll be in a position to expand office space, purchase new equipment and create jobs.
Why has the LEP decided to get involved with Leeds Digital Festival?
We have a strong digital sector in this Region and are mindful of our role to support this ecosystem. We launched a digital heartland campaign last year to celebrate the sector and position the region as a tech hub in order to encourage inward investment to bolster the existing sector growth. The campaign includes endorsement from key figures in the digital community with whom we have robust relationships such as; Stuart Clarke, Festival Director Leeds Digital Festival and Zandra Moore, CEO and Co-founder Panintelligence, as testament to the activity and ecosystem that already exists in the region.
Leeds Digital Festival prides itself on collaboration. Why do you think this is so important to Leeds and the wider Region within the sector?
We have a great partnership between the public and private sectors; the LEP supports businesses to improve digital capability and skills through programmes like: #Grow, Digital Enterprise and AD:VENTURE. This spirit of collaboration really came to the fore during the successful Leeds City Region Channel 4 bid, when the digital sector collaborated with the bid team I led to support our narrative that we are a young, vibrant and digitally enabled region. It’s a powerful message made possible only through true collaboration.
How do you think Leeds Digital Festival will benefit Leeds and what do you think the future digital landscape looks like in Leeds?
Leeds Digital Festival plays a crucial role in highlighting our strengths in the digital, creative and technology sectors, helping to attract new investment and opportunities to the Region. It creates a critical mass of focus and activity, bringing this community together with a focus on improving lives through tech. The digital skills programmes the LEP is investing in now will help to ensure the talent pipeline is sustainable and fit for purpose moving forward.
Right now, there is a spotlight on the digital landscape in the region as we look to maintain how this thriving sector continues to deliver economic stability to benefit those living and working in the region, as we recover from the economic shocks of COVID-19. I am delighted that we are supporting this event again this year and helping to showcase, to the rest of the UK, the talented digital community that exists here.